Reflections on What Makes a Good Trainer of Horses
Before beginning to train a horse it may help to reflect on what differentiates the real trainer and hack. Of course an experienced trainer will have more techniques to draw upon but I do not think this is the real difference.
I think we all can agree on these statements and make them axioms (self evident truths):
- Horses will attempt actions that bring about positive events and avoid actions that bring about negative events.
- Every learning experience is a mixture of positive and negative events.
- Every horse is different in his sensitivity to these two forces.
Certainly the primary reason horses resist training is they do not know what is being asked of them. To make matters worse many requirements of a well trained horse means they must unlearn natural reflexive behavior. I think some folks may argue that horses sometimes display willful disobedience. I do not know how to prove or disprove this supposition but fortunately we do not have to agree on this: the best training techniques throw out punishment as a training tool, which suggests to me willful disobedience may not be in a horses emotional repertoire. Note well that punishment is vastly different than negative reinforcement. Using these two axioms and some common observations about horses, we can distill out the traits that are needed to become a sucessful trainer and something about sucessful training techniques.
~Word Count: 922 words (The average magazine page contains about 600 words);
~Last Updated: April 17, 2011;
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